LUFC Trust takes a look into away fan pricing in The Championship

Following media coverage and online debate around the price of away tickets at Elland Road, Leeds United Supporters’ Trust feel that there is a wider issue which needs to be addressed in order to see a reduction in Elland Road prices.

What is the issue?

A number of clubs’ away fans have expressed their anger at the price of a ticket to see their team play at Elland Road. The price of a ticket in the away section of the ground for the 2019/20 season is priced at £39, the second highest in the Championship (beaten only by Blackburn's £40 tickets for Leeds Away fans). This issue was recently highlighted by the visit of Reading, a club which charge just £20 across the board for away fans visiting the Madejski Stadium. The FSA launched the Twenty’s Plenty campaign a number of years ago in order to keep prices for away fans at a reasonable level, given the ever-increasing costs of travel, food and drink, and other associated costs that come with watching football. The prices charged by Leeds for away fans are way above the suggested £20 level and are pricing many opposition fans out of watching their team play at Elland Road.

What do the club say?

After consultation with the club, MD Angus Kinnear revealed to us that reciprocal pricing (both clubs agreeing to charge away supporters the same price for tickets) has been floated with a number of clubs, however most were not open to altering their prices as they see Leeds United as a financially important fixture. Those clubs with “Category” price structures often deem Leeds United to be a top category fixture, resulting in higher prices for our fans and larger revenues for the host club.

Logistically, reducing prices for away fans is difficult, as the away section is currently located in the West Stand, a decision made by Ken Bates to be able to charge away fans more. In order to charge away fans a different price to home fans in this section, the club would require special dispensation from the EFL. Moving the away section is also difficult now, as the South Stand is full of season ticket holders which would require relocating.

While the Trust does acknowledge that there are barriers to lowering ticket prices for away fans, we also believe that the club should be working to secure reciprocal pricing agreements, not just for the benefit of visiting fans to Elland Road, but also for the benefit of Leeds United fans.

Why should Leeds fans care about the price of tickets for away fans?

This is not just an issue for fans of other clubs. Today’s announcement that Blackburn Rovers will be charging 7,700 travelling Leeds fans £40 per ticket highlights that, while prices at Elland Road are high, a number of other clubs in the Championship are also charging vastly inflated prices for second tier football.

This season in 13 of our 21 away games (in which tickets have been released) Leeds fans have been charged more than £30 per ticket. In terms of the most expensive tickets, Blackburn are charging £40, Sheffield Wednesday charged Leeds fans £39, Barnsley charged £36, and Fulham £35. During the 2018/19 season, the average cost of an away ticket for a Leeds United fan was £29.10 (the average for this season so far is slightly higher at £29.66 - up to and including the Blackburn game). For comparison, a Reading fan during the 2018/19 season would have paid an average of £24.54. To further illustrate the point, Hospitality prices for Reading’s visit to Pride Park are set at £99, while Leeds United prices are set at £195.

Over the course of the 2018/19 season, a Leeds fan attending every away game at general admission prices was charged £100 more than a Reading fan attending every away game.

While we do not wish to divert attention from the excessive price of away tickets at Elland Road, this shows that there is a wider discussion to be had about ticket prices for away fans at all clubs in the Championship.

What is the Trust’s stance on Twenty’s Plenty?

We wholeheartedly back the Twenty’s Plenty campaign and feel that anything more than £20 for a ticket, particularly for dedicated fans traveling the length and breadth of the county, is excessive. However, for this to be sustainable for Championship clubs, we need the EFL to help clubs increase revenue from other sources, such as by providing a better television deal for its member clubs than the one they currently have. Leeds United, like many other clubs, count ticket and matchday revenue as their primary source of income, and until money from television rights increases significantly, there is no commercial incentive for clubs to reduce prices. A division-wide price cap is the only way to reduce ticket prices, abolish the “Category” pricing structures and ensure fans of all clubs are treated fairly and charged appropriately.

We asked the FSA for a comment on away ticket prices in the Championship. FSA spokesperson, Michael Brunskill said:

"The top-flight cap means that Championship away days can be the most expensive in football. If the EFL adopted a Twenty’s Plenty away price cap it would save Leeds United’s travelling fans a small fortune over a full season. The EFL is understandably proud to boast that the Championship is, on attendance, one of the biggest leagues in Europe, so why can't they follow the examples set by Ligue Un (France) and cap prices across-the-board?

"Clubs such as Coventry City, Ipswich Town and, most recently, Reading have offered cheap, reciprocal deals for travelling fans, and we'd encourage all clubs to follow that lead. However, it’s difficult for these clubs or fan groups to force widespread change in isolation, and we want the EFL to consider all initiatives which could reduce the costs for supporters.”

While football is partisan by nature, Twenty’s Plenty is a campaign which requires fans of all clubs to work together in order to achieve what is best for everyone. The Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Trust have expressed their anger at the price of their fans’ tickets at Elland Road tomorrow, and we wish to express sympathy and solidarity with these fans.

We applaud Reading FC and thank them for their commitment to £20 tickets for away fans and hope that Leeds United will reciprocate this gesture to Reading’s fans should we be in the same division next season. We also hope that other clubs in the Championship will be as forthcoming as Reading FC when it comes to offering sensible prices for away fans.